Oh, Flavia De Luce. As literary creations go, she’s probably my most favourite of the past few years. She had me at “will nobody rid us of this turbulent pastry chef?” in her first outing. But I still find myself waiting for a plot that is even half as engrossing and satisfying as her gung-ho narration. I’m also still waiting for her to start ageing and now at five books in, it’s really just not conceivable that this much murder and mayhem can befall one small village in under 12 months. I mean, I know there’s Midsomer Murders, but come on.
The book opens with Bishop’s Lacey preparing for the quincentennial of St Tancred, an occasion to be marked by opening his tomb in the local church. Naturally, Flavia is there and of course she finds a recently deceased church organist where a 500 year dead saint should be. Most 11 year olds would be traumatised, but with four successful murders solved, Flavia is galvanised to be at the forefront of this one and sets about trampling all over the investigation with her signature blunt and precocious style.
It’s a very tricky tightrope to walk, making your protagonist insufferable within the story but absolutely charming to the audience. It’s one that is rarely achieved for me, as I generally find myself as annoyed as all the other characters. Notable exceptions include the two most recent Sherlocks, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller. And now, Flavia De Luce. Pretty much everyone who speaks to Flavia in the books ends up wanting to throttle her. But I found myself enchanted and cackling away at her brilliantly pithy commentary.
As for the mystery itself, it’s all bogged down in with missing jewels and love triangles and lead poisoning (!) and if it weren’t being relayed with as much gusto, it would really be shown up for the sub-par Agatha Christie it really is. The murderer is fairly obvious from quite early on, but Bradley thinks he’s filling the pages with red herrings. He isn’t. There is another storyline running throughout this instalment though; the de Luce’s impending financial ruin. They are so broke they have to put their mansion up for sale. I really thought seeing Flavia in such circumstances could really shake the next book up but Bradley decided to throw in a curve ball to end the book. It’s a top notch cliffhanger and hopefully a game changer. We shall see.
And that is a WRAP for Cannonball Read 5! Stay tuned for my first review for Cannonball 6.